A Clarinet Studio Transformation: Before

At the end of the summer, a friend contacted me asking for help reorganizing her home studio/office space. She is a successful clarinet teacher and performer who has maintained a large thriving studio here in Northern Virginia. She has lived in her current house for 12 years, and between the 50+ private students she teaches each week, the various schools she visits for sectionals and master classes, and the fact that she is a busy mom of three, the state of her studio was starting to drive her crazy. Helping her transform this space was such a joy!

Before: Deciding What Was Working

Kristen’s studio had some really great things going for it. The room is a good size with ample natural light and a great closet, plus she already owned many high-quality containment solutions (durable boxes, Elfa drawers, drawer organizers, etc). Over the past decade + of teaching in this room, though, the space had become cluttered. Kristen is a stylish person with a big, fun personality, but that style was overshadowed by messy piles and paper clutter.

Challenges and Goals

Additionally, Kristen faced some new changes to her work life. One day a week, she would be subletting her studio to another clarinetist, and needed the space to be shareable for a second teacher. She also became a representative for a reed company and needed storage for a fairly significant amount of merchandise and marketing paraphernalia.

The closet had great bones, but was packed with some things that had no business occupying space in her studio. Among the clarinets and printer toner were photo albums and recordings from high school and college, old binders and surplus school supplies, and many years’ worth of Clarinet magazines. There was so much potential hidden in this great space!

Music teachers constantly have to deal with paper clutter. In the spring, Kristen prepares all of her students to perform in the Solo and Ensemble Festival and in a massive studio recital. Additionally, she helps her students prepare selections for college auditions, youth orchestra auditions, summer festivals, regional competitions, and more. Not to mention her own practice and performances! She attends conferences every year to find new music, and organizing that in her library is a constant task. Fortunately, she had a pretty good system in place. However, music was overflowing, so we had to both cull some things and find more containment solutions.

Among the categories needing sorting in this space were crafting materials and office supplies. Kristen has a great collection of ribbon for senior gifts and vinyl/paper for Cricut projects. She also purchased an industrial-strength hole punch as she makes a massive amount of binders for students each year.

Over the years, Kristen has accumulated tons of sweet cards and notes, photographs, recital programs, and trinkets from her students, children, friends, and family members. Some of them still hold great meaning, while others simply added to the “noise” of the space.

The Process and Plans

First, Kristen took everything out of the room. She painted the walls white to freshen up the space, and created a Pinterest board with her ideas. She decided on a loose color scheme and wanted the room to be “Kate Spade-inspired.” We had to work under strict time constraints, because not only is she is a busy working mom, but school was about to start back. Plus,¬†she had an upcoming appointment to have the carpets professionally cleaned for the first time – so everything had to be off the floors!

We started with the office side, and literally dumped everything out of the drawers. (Actually, things fell out when we moved them!) Her sweet kids helped us organize everything into categories. Over two days, we threw out 7 bags of trash. Kristen went through every single item in these drawers and thought carefully about what she needed to keep. Just when she thought we were done, I would open another drawer and discover a new batch of “treasures” to sort through! Seeing everything from the drawers laid out on the floor is really eye-opening. For example, Kristen learned that she is a Post-It note hoarder. How many Post-It notes does one actually need?

Though walking down memory lane was fun, Kristen was really judicious about what she kept. Having less “stuff” made organizing much easier!

Next on the To-Do List

Each day we worked, I left Kristen with a to-do list that she diligently tackled. After the first long day of decluttering the space, these were her assignments:
  • purchase and set up bookcase along center of wall.
  • purchase a chair for the corner of the room (ideally that adds color and pattern, potentially to be “inspiration” piece/color palette)
  • consider adding a rug to the room (alternative basis for the color scheme/inspiration, at least should coordinate with/compliment chair)
  • possibly add decorative backing/paint/foam board to back of bookcase, color depending on decisions made in regard to chair and rug
  • “decorate” bookcase with items designated for room
  • add a coordinating lamp to command center corner (doesn’t have to be new purchase if you have something elsewhere in your house)
  • selectively choose what will be left on desk counter, keeping in mind it should only be things that you use every day. (This is a work space, not a storage space.)
  • add meaningful pieces of art or photographs to wall
  • install Elfa wall units to interior of closet doors
  • selectively return categorized/organized items to closet (and bookcase)
  • try to include a green plant to “bring life” into space and keep air clean

It was hard work, but she got it done!